North Carolina’s Democratic members of Congress and two faith-based organizations have sent a letter to top Republicans in the state urging them to condemn Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson for his recently documented comments that they called “antisemitic and hate-filled rhetoric” that also questioned the validity of the Holocaust.
Robinson, who is running for governor in 2024, has a well-documented reputation for volatile orations against various groups, including members of the LGBTQ, and Black communities, and a report published earlier this month by the Jewish Insider news site describes comments made by Robinson on social media to be “racist” and “antisemitic” and “border on denial of the Holocaust.”
That report inspired six of the seven Democrats representing North Carolina in the U.S. House to cosign a letter addressed sent Monday to Michael Whatley, chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), asking them to “put partisanship aside to act in good conscience and strongly condemn his statements.
“His inflammatory statements invoke harmful stereotypes and conspiracy theories, downplay the Holocaust, and denigrate entire groups of human beings. They are not just deeply troubling, but downright dangerous. Lieutenant Governor Robinson has repeatedly used his platform to target vulnerable populations,” the letter read in part.
“Jewish communities here in North Carolina are already experiencing a swell of discrimination, threats, and acts of violence. Hate crimes are up in the state. His venomous words will undoubtedly exacerbate episodes of hate and extremism that will not just threaten the Jewish Community, but all North Carolinians.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), one of 33 Jewish members of Congress, and her colleagues Valerie Foushee (D-Durham), Alma Adams (D-Charlotte), Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), Wiley Nickel (D-Cary) and Deborah Ross (D-Raleigh), along with NC Democratic Chair Anderson Clayton and the Democratic Majority For Israel and the North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association.
Response from opponents in governor’s race
Robinson’s comments also have drawn fiery retorts from his opponents for the GOP nomination – state Treasurer Dale Folwell and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker – along with Democratic candidate Josh Stein, who is Jewish.
Walker, who had been interviewed by the Jewish Insider for a follow-up published a week after the initial report, told WGHP that he is “saddened to see the continuing antisemitic comments and strongly condemn them. Frankly, Mr. Robinson’s affinity to talk repeatedly about Hitler and the Nazis is puzzling, much like his defense of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein for their ‘so-called sex crimes’ while blaming the Illuminati for a ‘leftist plot’ against them.
“I don’t believe the majority of North Carolinians are going to support any candidate that attacks the various communities throughout our state evidenced by the fact that Mr. Robinson is already trailing female voters by a large margin. I am proud of my record and strong conservative positions, but my first instincts are to build bridges, not to burn them.“
Folwell, treasurer since 2017 and a member of the General Assembly before that, said in a text message to WGHP: “It’s rare that you apply for a job and know who the other applicants are. Applying to be the leader of NC is tough business. Our campaign and governorship will be about my story, results and decency.
“Insults are the reason that the Republican Party is number 3 in NC. Citizens are saying stop with their hands with their feet. Most North Carolinians aren’t affiliated with either team.”
Said Stein, who has been attorney general since 2017: “The Lieutenant Governor’s hateful words are inexcusable. We are all children of God, and no one should be targeted because of who they are. We need leaders who fight to protect all North Carolinians.”
“This letter is nothing more than a cheap and dishonest political stunt,” Mike Lonergan, communications director, Mark Robinson for Governor, said in an email to WGHP. “Every one of these pandering Democrat politicians voted for Hakeem Jeffries to lead their caucus, and he has a long history of making and defending racist and antisemitic speech. If they were truly concerned about antisemitic rhetoric, they would apologize for their vote to make Jeffries the House Democrat leader and condemn his hateful speech.”
A spokesperson for Whatley had referred questions about the letter to Robinson’s campaign. Spokespersons for Berger and Moore did not respond immediately to emails seeking comment.
What he said
Jewish Insider’s report on July 7 delineated several of Robinson’s posts on social media, most of them before he was elected lieutenant governor in 2020 in his first political race.
“I am so sick of seeing and hearing people STILL talk about Nazis and Hitler and how evil and manipulative they were. NEWS FLASH PEOPLE, THE NAZIS (National Socialist) ARE GONE! We did away with them,” Robinson wrote on Facebook in May 2017, which Jewish Insider called “a typo-ridden screed.” “Communist created the Marxist Socialist that CURRENTLY control Europe, fill the ranks of OUR OWN Democratic Party, and control our mass media. Compared with the Communist the Nazis were upstart amateurs in terms of manipulation and MURDER.”
Many of the comments cited in JI’s original report appeared to defend Naziism as being much less dangerous to America than communism and “Marxist socialism” and how he sees that philosophy embraced by Democrats, which he called the “same old Communist” in a post.
“Why do you think they make so many movies and documentary films about how evil the Nazi were? And why do you think they NEVER make those films about the excesses of the Communist?” Robinson said. “They make films celebrating leftist like Stalin and Che Guvera. They love them.”
The report also noted how some of Robinson’s posts appeared to use a Yiddish insult – “shvartze” – in deriding the acclaimed 1977 book and television miniseries “Roots” as “one of the most vile things ever filmed.”
And Robinson called Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is Jewish, a “Smuck,” which Jewish Insider figured was meant to be the insulting term “schmuck.”
A week after the original article, Walker told Jewish Insider that Robinson’s “history of antisemitic remarks is trouble. His denial of the Holocaust reaches a whole different level and should be strongly condemned in every aspect possible.”
Walker termed Robinson’s long history of quotes a “100% antisemitic” and cited comments that appeared to deny that the Holocaust had cost the lives of approximately 6 million Jews before and during World War II.
Walker cited to Jewish Insider a line from one Facebook comment from n 2018, when Robinson wrote that “Hitler disarming MILLIONS of Jews and then marching them off to concentration camps is a bunch of hogwash.”
“The fact that you’re out there saying it’s ‘hogwash’ that Hitler actually marched Jews into concentration camps?” Walker told JI. “How could anybody believe that in the 21st century, much less anybody who’s saying ‘I want to serve all communities’?”
History of other comments
Robinson made his name in 2018 when his fiery repudiation of the Greensboro City Council for cancellation of a gun show at the coliseum in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida, became a YouTube sensation, but his penchant for rage and vitriol were there on social media for years before that night.
Earlier this year, Talking Points Memo, an independent news site, went back seven years to study Robinson’s posts on Facebook and found that a broad history of public outrage that sometimes embraced conspiracy theories, reinforced antisemitism and denied history. Jewish Insider included some of the same posts.
Deep dives into Robinson’s rhetorical history are not unusual. In recent months, especially since Robinson formally announced his campaign in a comparatively tepid address on April 22, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Politico, The Guardian and The New York Times all have offered variations on a theme that North Carolina media outlets cover on an ongoing basis.
The Hitler incident
And he did react two weeks ago when statements in a speech at the “Moms for Liberty” summit, when he defended a chapter of the organization – designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an “extremist organization” – for using Adolph Hitler’s words in promotional materials. The letter sent Monday mentions those comments, too.
“Because you quoted Hitler, you support Hitler. I guess every history book in America supports Hitler now,” Robinson said in part. “They all quote him. … It’s time for us to start teaching our children some of those quotes. It’s time for us to start teaching our children about the dirty, despicable, awful things that those communist and socialist despots did in our history.”
Robinson said on Twitter that the quote had been taken out of context and that the final part referencing “the dirty, despicable, awful things that those communist and socialist despots did in our history” had been removed. He shared a video including a larger portion of his speech to give more context.
“Lt. Governor Robinson has always been a passionate advocate for educating the public on the evils of the Nazis and the Holocaust. His political opponents are just lying in a brazen attempt to score cheap political points,” Lonergan said.
The letter sent by the Democrats said that “North Carolina’s strength comes from its diversity. Leaders who seek to dehumanize and divide us instead of bringing us together are chipping away at the values on which our nation was founded – that we are all created equal. It is incumbent on our leaders to uphold the obligation of the office they occupy. The Lieutenant Governor has plainly failed to do that.”